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So You’re Thinking Of Renting Through Airbnb?

in Advice, Bay Area Real Estate by Wendy Gittleson Leave a comment

Depending on who you talk to, Airbnb is either the greatest thing since there was no room at the inn or it’s a way to help destroy the Bay Area’s already tight rental market.

Image courtesy of Flickr.

Image courtesy of Flickr.

In case you aren’t familiar with Airbnb, it’s sort of like an eBay for short-term rentals, only without the bidding. Homeowners, or in many cases leaseholders, rent out either a room or the entire place for a nightly, weekly or monthly rate – presumably while they’re on jaunts of their own.

Since it’s relatively new to the market, there have been few regulations. Many landlords prohibit subletting and I assume that some leases are specifically mentioning that that applies to short-term rentals as well. But in cities like San Francisco, where the housing market is very tight for people who live here long-term, until recently, people have been hoarding properties and renting them out at higher short-term rates, rather than settle for lease prices.

In October of last year, San Francisco passed some regulations for the short-term rental market, including setting a maximum of 90 days a year for any given property and paying hotel taxes. Here is more information on the law.

If you still want to try it out, Airbnb might be a great way to help pay for your own vacation or a way to help finance your own living space without the commitment of a roommate.

Like eBay, Airbnb offers star ratings for both renters rentals. The more quality reviews, the better. That can be a bit of a sticky wicket at times. Even while you are on vacation, being disruptive or making too much noise can result in bad reviews. If you plan on really partying, you might want to stick with a hotel. Unfortunately, complaints can also ring up bad reviews, so if you clog the toilet while renting, it’s a good idea to fix it yourself.

On the other side, most is pretty obvious. Keep your place immaculate. Invest in coordinating linens. Paint the walls. Make sure everything works perfectly. Your goal in the beginning is to rack up good reviews, which might mean cutting your price and adding extra touches like gift cards to local restaurants, a box of chocolates or a bottle of California wine.

Give your guests a binder full of restaurant menus, public transportation information, local sights and activities. You also want to list any peculiarities your home may have, such as a door that needs to be lifted before opening.

Neighbors may not like the idea of strangers staying next door. You can do one of two things; you can either pretend they’re your friends or you can talk to your neighbors, telling them that you only rent to top-rated renters. I recommend the second.

While location is everything, there are many renters who want the San Francisco experience without paying San Francisco prices. If you are on the BART line or within easy commuting distance to the city, you can still generate good prices. Wine country is another huge draw, as is Silicon Valley, especially for business travelers.

There are no guarantees, though. I just plugged in my address and the monthly net was less than we pay every month. Regardless, check them out. It could be worth it for you.

How To Get The Most Possible Money When Selling Your House

in Real Estate by Wendy Gittleson Leave a comment
Image courtesy of Wikipedia

Image courtesy of Wikipedia

Depending on when you bought your home, there’s a very good chance that you have quite a bit of equity right now. Still, there’s probably a lot you can do to increase the selling value of your home and a lot of them are pretty simple.

1. Clean up the outside – Try to look at your house as if you have never seen it before. If that’s tough for you, ask a friend or coworker to give you an objective opinion. Curb appeal is the first thing new buyers see and you’d be surprised at the number of potential buyers that let that be the last impression.

Do you need to paint or do you need new siding? Even if the siding is in good shape, make sure it’s a neutral color. Personally, I love purple houses, but I’m in a small minority. the same holds true for other more creative shades.

Fill bare ground with ground cover or lawn. Add some shrubs and flowers to the front. Shutters and an accent door add a lot of personality, without being offensive, to the house.

2. Clean the inside – This takes work and will constantly need to be maintained while the house is being shown. Dust and vacuum every single day. Never, ever leave a dish in the sink. Make sure all the beds are made and that each has matching or coordinating bedding – in other words, no two different colors of pillow cases. Make sure the bathrooms have clean, preferably new, matching towels. Potpourri is always a nice touch, as are subtly scented candles. The old Realtor’s trick of baking cookies actually does help.

3. Renovate the bathroom – Bathroom renovations can be anything from brand new spa-like fixtures and tile to new light fixtures and faucets. Regardless of your budget, caulk and add new linens.

4. Renovate the kitchen – Yes, that’s expensive and might not be worth it. Ask your Realtor, but there are some things you can do without spending too much. Paint, scrub your appliances spotless, add a new backsplash. You can even paint your cabinets, which takes about a weekend or two. If you have the budget, knock down walls for an open look and build an island/breakfast bar. Replace your appliances with stainless steel.

5. Paint the inside – Again, use neutral colors.

6. Add an additional bathroom if you have room – Most Bay Area homes don’t have basements, but there are many homes with wasted space. If you can add a bathroom, it should add to the value of the home. Again, consult with your broker and perhaps a contractor to weigh the value.

7. Don’t define rooms for buyers – Some rooms are obvious. A kitchen is a kitchen. A bathroom is a bathroom, but your home office might be another’s playroom. Your TV room might be a home office. Put neutral furniture in those rooms, such as a sofa, chair and maybe a small desk that can double as a plant table.

8. Change light fixtures and buy new bulbs.

9. Add solar – In California, we have plenty of sun and solar rooftops can add thousands to your home’s resale value. It’s best if you go solar before selling your home, so you can benefit from the cost savings too.  A solar water heater is also a great investment.

10. Add hardwood – If you can afford new flooring, hardwood is the most popular option. There are several types of hardwood flooring and there are laminate floors that look like hardwood but aren’t. Gauge that based on your neighborhood. A high-end neighborhood will require high-end flooring. A starter neighborhood may be fine with laminates.

Four Moving Apps To Help Take The Stress Away

in Preparing for a move, Uncategorized by Wendy Gittleson Leave a comment

I’m not going to lie to you. Even when you hire a great moving company, moving is horrible. You go from settled to unsettled in the blink of an eye. Boxes become your life. The place and the people near your hold home become memory. Fortunately, technology hasn’t left you behind. There are several apps that can make things a lot easier.

1. Moving Planner (Andriod) and Moving Software Pro (iOS) – Both apps are made by Jinbl Software Labs and both have more than 210 household items and todo items. If you’re a snob for grammar, this might not be the app for you, but you can’t beat its practicality. If you absolutely don’t have time for a mover to visit your home prior to the move, this tool will help both you and the mover make an accurate estimate. Both are only $.99 and are fully refundable if you aren’t happy.

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2. Moving Day (iOS) – Moving Day goes even a step further and it’s free. It allows you to barcode scan and label every single box. You’ll know what goes where and what might be missing. If you see a damaged box, you’ll know what’s inside before opening it. If you’re as generally disorganized as me, this app will be a life saver.

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3. MoveMatch (Android) – MoveMatch is the perfect app for people who don’t have the time or energy to meet people. With MoveMatch, you can take a thorough, professional inventory of all your goods and send them to movers in your area. If your inventory matches, movers should be able to give you a guaranteed price. It also works for storage, commercial moves and for overseas moves.

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4. Gas Buddy (iOS and Android) – If you plan on driving your car or a moving van across country, don’t even think about not downloading Gas Buddy. It will tell you the cheapest gas stations on the road and it’s free.

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Safes And Other Difficult Items To Move

in Uncategorized by Wendy Gittleson Leave a comment
Image courtesy Wikimedia.

Image courtesy Wikimedia.

Most moves are pretty cut and dry. Three or four movers pack and move. Wham bam. It might not be instantaneous, but generally there are few major problems. There are some items, though, that are particularly difficult and moving companies have to know in advance so they can bring the proper tools.

1. Safes – Obviously, this depends on the size of the safe, but if you have a man-sized fireproof safe, a moving company will need special tools and sometimes additional men.

2. Pianos – When you get your moving quote, the mover should always ask what kind of piano you have. They aren’t being snobs. The size of the piano will make a big difference in preparing for the move. The piano might require additional men. It will require additional equipment. It’s highly advised that you wait to tune your piano until after it’s moved.

3. Appliances – Moving appliances is relatively easy, but you want to make sure everything is disconnected before the movers arrive. You want to disconnect the water line on your refrigerator and on your washer and dishwasher. If you have a gas dryer, it’s a good idea to have a professional disconnect that and reconnect it at your new home. Movers can typically refer you to professionals.

4. Propane grills – Moving companies can move the grill but they can’t move the propane.

5. Children’s playground equipment and trampolines – A mover must see playground equipment before it’s moved. Playground equipment generally takes a lot of disassembly and it can take up considerable room.

6. Fish tanks – It probably goes without saying, but fish tanks and aquariums need to be emptied and drained before being moved. Most credible movers will do more than just throw a blanket over the aquarium. It should be boxed.

7. Fine art – Fine art of all kinds should be custom packed. The mover will need to assess and measure. Some pieces will require wooden packing crates.

8. Murphy beds – Murphy beds, the kind that fold into the wall, are especially common in small apartments. Without proper equipment, they can be very dangerous. They are heavy and they can accidentally open. Discuss murphy beds with your mover.

9. Sofa beds – Sofa beds are much easier than murphy beds, but they are heavy and the bed mechanism should be strapped down.

10. Scrap – Yes, scrap can be moved, although it might not be cost effective. It’s generally best that if there’s a lot, it has its own designated truck.

Most of your possessions will be very easy for most movers, but if you have any questionable items, ask. It’s a mover’s job to find solutions.

How To Find A Mover

in Preparing for a move by Wendy Gittleson Leave a comment

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In the two decades I’ve been in the moving industry, the biggest change is in the way people now have to find movers. It used to be relatively easy. All a person had to do was pick up their local Yellow Pages. If a moving company had a listing, or better yet had taken out an ad, it was a pretty sure sign that if nothing else, the company had been around for at least a little while.

Things have absolutely changed. You might find a few movers in the Yellow Pages, but most have taken their advertising dollars to the web and there’s a good chance you haven’t cracked open a Yellow Pages in years either.

The problem with finding a mover (or anyone) on the internet is that advertising on the internet is cheap and instantaneous. That means that any fly-by-night company can appear right next to a very reputable company, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t ways to tell.

Let me start with a very basic primer on how search engines like Google, Bing and Yahoo work. They have two kinds of listings. One are paid listings, which are ads. Those are at the very tops and the sides of your search results. You’ll also see ads related to previous searches during your web browsing.

The second kind are called “organic” listings. Organic listings are the ones that are in the body of the search engine and are most similar to Yellow Pages listings. Companies don’t pay for them.

Advertising on search engines can be expensive, depending on the search terms used, so that sort of rules out the fly-by-night companies right there, but it takes a while to show up on organic searches, so companies have to at least put a little time in the business.

There’s a third type of listing on search engines and those are their business listings. If a company is registered with the search engine, they will appear in the middle of the first page of results, with the ability to map the company. You might also see reviews.

Truth be told, though, finding a moving company through a search engine is only half the picture. Google (with the exception of Google business listings’ reviews) can’t tell you a whole lot about a company, except for what the company wants you to know.

You still need to do a little legwork, which can also be done online. If business listings have reviews, read them. Look on Yelp and Angie’s List. The Better Business Bureau is a little antiquated these days, but as one source of information they are fine.

It’s also a great idea to check with people like your real estate agent.

Ask your final choices for their licensing information and run that through SafeSys.org.

Finally, and this is very important, have the company give you an in-person estimate and make them guarantee their price.

What Do The Movers Expect Out Of The Move?

in Preparing for a move by Wendy Gittleson Leave a comment

1795763_818068038217889_6419290821201040947_nWhat do the movers expect out of the move?

Okay, that’s a strange and a bit of a trick question. The most simple answer is that the movers expect their customers to be happy. They expect that the move will go smoothly, with no headaches.

They expect that there will be no damages. They expect the move to go as quickly as possible with as much grace as possible.

But, that’s not really why you’ve clicked on this link. You want to know about things like tipping and feeding the crew. While none of that is expected and no one will ask, except maybe for a glass of water, if customers feel inclined, there are some guidelines that can be followed.

Food: Movers work very hard and they do get very hungry. Some will pack their own lunches, but it’s always appreciated if customers order a pizza or some sandwiches.

Note that lunch breaks are on their time, not on yours.

Drinks: The first couple of times I moved, I bought every variety of drinks my local 7-11 had. At the end of the day, I realized that the movers generally only drank maybe one or two of the varieties. Then, I learned to call ahead or simply ask when they arrive.

Moving crews often adapt to each other, which means they often drink the same thing. Sports drinks and energy drinks are particularly popular. So is good old fashioned water.

Tip: I can’t stress strongly enough that while some movers do ask for tips or do that not-so-subtle hesitation before they leave, it’s bad, bad form. It’s actually a sign of a very bad moving company – or at least one who isn’t too concerned about your opinion.

That being said, if the movers do a good job, tips are absolutely appreciated. In general, 5 percent of the move ($50 on a $1,000 move) is reasonable. You could also just tip $10 or $20 per mover, depending on the length and difficulty of the move.

It’s A Moving Miracle – Cat Survives Being Moved To Hawaii In A Box

in Articles, Preparing for a move by Wendy Gittleson Leave a comment

Screen Shot 2014-12-19 at 4.11.28 PM

Ninja Movers are always careful about what we pack, but even we’ve had the occasional packing error. A few full trash cans have been packed (one man’s trash is another man’s treasure), but I can say with full confidence that we have never, ever packed a pet. Unfortunately, that did happen with one move, but the results, which could have been disastrous, were miraculous.

In September, the Barth family moved from Long Island to Hawaii. Shortly after the movers left, the Barths noticed that their cat, Mee Moowe, went missing.

“I was really worried and starting to think the worst,” Barth said. “Maybe she ran away, maybe the movers scared her and she decided it was too much noise and she took off.”

Source: KXAN

They stayed behind looking for Mee Moowe as long as they could, but eventually, they had to leave.

Hawaii moves are a bit different from Continental U.S. moves in that the movers need to cross an ocean, which considerably slows down the process. It took 36 days for the Barths belongings to arrive in Hawaii and when they started to unpack, they heard a faint “meow.”

Mee Moowe had been packed into one of the boxes. She wasn’t healthy after more than three months with no food or water. Her eyes were crusted shut. She was anemic and dramatically thinner, but she had survived.

Mee Moowe is doing better, but she’s not completely reunited with her family yet. She was supposed to receive shots before moving to Hawaii and since she didn’t, she’s being quarantined at a veterinarian’s office at a cost of $4,000.

The moving company’s name hasn’t been released and they haven’t yet commented, but I can assure you that stories of pets accidentally being packed and moved are very rare.

For now, though, we’re just delighted that the Barth’s kitty will soon be joining them in their new Hawaiian home.

To prevent possible mistakes, including the far more realistic possibility that a pet could slip out the door during the move, it’s usually best to have pets stay with friends or family.

Here’s the video:

How To Plan Moving And Making It Stress Free

in Articles by Wendy Gittleson Leave a comment

How to plan moving and making it stress free Moving house is one of the biggest and stressful events of an individual’s life. The only way to make it smoother and easier is to plan the thing quite earlier. The introduction of moving and removal companies has made the things quite easier. A large list of moving companies can be found over the World Wide Web but not each of them is trustworthy. These companies can help you in packing up your belongings, moving your valuables form one place to another and also storing them (if needed). In many cases, it is required to store your furniture and other such items in some storage while moving. The storage solutions provided by such companies are quite affordable and cost effective. There are also specific companies available that only does provide you with the storage solutions. They offer you portable containers that can be used as units for storage. No matter what kind of removal it is, these removal companies are a big help. Today, it is getting really inconvenient to perform large house removals and office removals without consulting with one of these companies. The only thing is to search for a reliable company so that you can get stress free.

The professional removal experts can also give you the best of the advices for your home removal. These removal companies do offer the clients with complete services starting from giving you suggestions regarding the moving, helping you out in packing your stuff and then finally letting you to move from old place to new place. All these tasks are done very smoothly by these companies and are completely hassle free. You can easily search for these companies on internet and through yellow pages and directories. You can also ask these companies to perform a survey of your house and give you suggestions regarding moving and removals. There are many companies that offer these removal surveys. This will also help you out in making your moving process simpler. While surveying your home the surveyor will guide you and will discuss the moving plan with you. He will give you the plan for dismantling of furniture and for packing up your belongings. By hiring such a reliable company, you can become <a href=”http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tension”>tension</a> free after handing over your possessions to the professional movers.

If you are planning to move to some new country then these companies are still there to help you out. These companies also do offer international removal and moving services. Moving home or office within the same city is still easier and one can try to perform this without taking the help from some professional company but international removals are not easier and must not be handled alone. It is better to take help from some professional movers in case of international removal. In case of international removals you will necessarily need storage containers that can be provided by the companies. The international removals cannot be performed without the storage containers as these removals might take long to get completed. Also, there can be some conditions under which it is not possible to continue the removal or moving process. Such conditions might include bad weather and at this stage you definitely need to store your belongings at some safe place. Relocation can be best performed with the help of professionals. They know what they have to do and can also perform their job within the estimated time. So, never hesitate in hiring a removal company to make your move successful. Home removals Shepherds Bush

Arthur: Emma Macmillan

 

How To Do A Move Out Clean In 20 Steps

in Advice, Preparing for a move by Wendy Gittleson Leave a comment

vacuum-cleaner-268179_1280My absolute least favorite part of moving out is the move out clean. It seems so pointless. At the end of a brutal day or three of backbreaking cleaning, you end up with a spotless home that you have to leave behind. Why couldn’t it have looked like that when you lived there?

Of course, the reason it didn’t look like that when you lived there is because you lived there. People are messy. Just maintaining a decent amount of cleanliness is hard enough. Who has time to spit-polish the floors and appliances?

Unfortunately, if you rent, that’s what the landlord expects. If you own, the new owners didn’t charge you a security deposit, but it is courteous to leave them a clean home, unless they are renovating.

I promised myself that the next time I move out, I will hire professionals. As with the entire moving process, you have to weigh the value of your time vs. the cost of the service. If you decide to do the cleaning yourself, here are some steps to make it easier, or at least more thorough.

1. Invite a friend. This had better be a close friend because it’s damned hard work, but it will make everything go so much quicker.

Everywhere

2. Once the home is completely empty, except for cleaning supplies and a source of music, vacuum thoroughly. Vacuum the walls and the blinds. Vacuum inside all drawers and cabinets. If the carpet is stained, hire a professional to clean it.

3. Remove nails and screws from the walls and putty them.

4. Clean the baseboards and clean any marks on the wall. If the marks don’t come out, you may need to paint – always use a neutral color, preferably the same color as when you moved in.

5. Clean the windows, both inside and out.

6. Wipe down wall switches, outlets and doorknobs.

7. Dust ceiling fans and wash light fixtures and replace burned out bulbs.

Bathroom

8. Thoroughly scrub inside all cabinets, re-line if necessary.

9. Remove soap scum from bathtub and shower and bleach the grout.

10. Clean the bathroom fixtures, floors and the mirror.

11. Vacuum the fan.

Kitchen

12. Thoroughly scrub inside all cabinets, re-line if necessary.

13. Scrub all appliances inside and out.

Remove all the shelves and drawers from the refrigerator and clean them thoroughly. Wipe down the inside of the refrigerator and freezer.

Run the oven cleaner, if there is an automatic one, but be sure to remove all the ash at the end of the cycle. The oven cleaning is best done before move out day, so it has time to run through the cycle and cool.

If you don’t have an automatic cleaning oven, you’ll have to buy oven cleaner. Be sure to wear a mask when you are spraying. Still, you’ll want to do this before the move out day, since it will need to sit for 24 hours and then you’ll need to thoroughly scrub it out. Remember, the broiler pan is made from the same metal as the oven, so it will withstand both the heat of a cleaning cycle and the oven cleaner in a can.

14. If the sink is not stainless, remove all stains (bleach if necessary).

15. Finish off all surfaces, including counters, chrome faucets, mirrors and sinks, with window cleaner. It will make them shine.

16. Pull out the appliances and sweep under them. Wipe down the sides and the back as they are pulled out.

Everywhere

17. Clean the tile and hardwood floors.

18. Run the vacuum one more time and you are done with the inside.

Outside

19. Tidy up the outside, including mowing the lawn and pulling weeds.

20. Sweep and hose down the garage, patio and driveway.

Once you’re done, take a lot of pictures in case your landlord claims you have damaged something or that the place is dirty. Oh, and be sure to empty the trash.

Image courtesy Pixabay.

 

 

 

How To Move A Car

in Long-Distance moving by Wendy Gittleson Leave a comment

Car_transporter_001You’ve made arrangements for packing and moving. You’re all set to go, except for one not so little detail – your car needs to somehow arrive at your destination and there’s no one to drive it.

Some movers will move your car, and I will get to that in a bit, but most movers work closely with an auto shipping service.

An auto shipping service works one of two ways. If your car runs and it’s not extremely high-value, you might choose an open carrier, which is the least expensive option. Open carriers are like you see on every major highway. New cars are typically shipped on an open carrier. Like moving companies, auto shipping companies charge based on a formula of weight and distance. Typically, you might pay around $800 up to $2,000. If you are flexible on delivery times, you might be able to negotiate a slightly lower rate.

If your car is high-value, you can ship it in a closed container. This is quite costly, but it will protect your car from potential road damage. Some moving companies offer closed container options.

If your car does not run, it will be considerably more costly, since it will need to be loaded and unloaded onto the shipping trailer.

Before you ship your car:

  • Wash, vacuum it and do a thorough inspection. Take lots of pictures, including any damage your car already has. You’ll need this on the other end.
  • Remove anything personal.
  • Fold in the mirrors, if they fold and lower the antenna if possible. Put the top up if it’s a convertible.
  • Leave just a bit of gas in the tank to lessen the weight. You will need enough to load and unload it, though.
  • Disable the car alarm.

 

If you aren’t worried about putting additional miles on your car and you’re okay with the idea of someone else driving it, there are individuals and services that will drive your car for you, often for a considerable savings, although you will have to pay for gas.

You can find drivers on Craigslist or Autodriveaway prequalifies drivers, but you may pay a little more than with Craigslist. However, they are fully insured against damage or theft.

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